Sonlight’s Exploring God’s World Pre-K program for ages four and five offers a relaxed approach to learning based on activities, picture books, and interactive discussions. Sonlight’s Pre-Kindergarten Package includes all of the resources that I describe in this review. This package covers readiness skills for both reading and math, and it also teaches about science, world cultures, and the Bible. You don’t need anything else.
For those with pre-kindergarten children who are ready to begin to learn to read, Sonlight offers the Pre-Kindergarten program bundled with the Sonlight K Phonics Program. If you purchase this alternate package, all except the resources used for teaching reading are the same.
The Exploring God’s World Pre-K Instructor’s Guide organizes the program for you. It has charts with weekly schedules that show you at a glance what to do in each of the books or resources. Brief notes that follow after each week's chart add explanations (when needed), lists of required materials, and optional activities.
The Developing the Early Learner series of four books plays an important role within the program. They are used to develop academic readiness skills, which are called “perceptual readiness” skills in these books. Utilizing many different styles of activity pages, these 62-page books work on perceptual readiness skills under four headings: visual, auditory, motor, and comprehension. The activity pages comprise the bulk of each book, but there are also a few explanatory pages at the front and a few more at the back that have auditory scripts, instructions for particular pages, and answer keys. The carefully designed student activity pages strategically teach skills such as auditory discrimination of sounds in words such as form and from; sequencing of events; letter and number recognition; understanding the meanings of prepositions such as under, on, and over; grouping items that are alike; drawing with continuous lines; and completing mazes.
Quite a few read-aloud books are used in this program since reading aloud to children is one of the most critical activities for building a foundation for successful reading and learning. The read-aloud books include titles such as A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes, Uncle Wiggly’s Story Book, A Child’s Book of Art, and Milly-Molly-Mandy Story Book. The American Tall Tales CD that is included with the program gives parents a small break from doing all of the reading themselves.
Other books in the program teach subject area content will also be read aloud to children. For language arts, you will use First Thousand Words and Dr. Seuss’s ABC. (If you choose the package with Phonics K, you get other resources in place of these two books.) Among the eight books to be read for science are The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature, The Year at Maple Hill Farm, How Do You Lift a Lion?, and Why Do Tigers Have Stripes? The six books used for learning about world cultures are People, Things People Do, Stories from Africa, The Gods Must Be Angry, Then and Now, and New Toes for Tia. For Bible instruction, parents will read from 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible, and children will work on a Bible memory verse each week.
There are usually six or more activities suggested for each week, many of which tie to the books you are reading. For example, when you read the nursery rhyme “Old King Cole” from A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes, an optional activity has children dress up like a king. For an activity, it suggests rolling up aluminum foil like a snake, then stapling it into a circle to form a crown. There's a section about doctors in Things People Do that suggests teaching children the names of parts of their bodies and discussing personal care such as brushing teeth, washing hands, and combing hair.
For math, readiness activities in the instructor’s guide cover topics such as counting, comparison, and one-to-one correspondence. And children learn to recognize numbers in the Developing the Early Learner books.
You will need many items to complete all of the activities, but most of them can be readily found around the house. A list near the front of the instructor's guide alerts you to a number of items that will be used frequently throughout the year. Among the items on that list are basic art supplies (e.g., paper, crayons, scissors, and glue), a pedal-driven riding toy, tweezers, tongs, a clothespin, stuffed toys, small toy cars, a flashlight, pennies, buttons, and a globe or a map. Other items are listed with each specific activity within the lesson plans.
As you have probably surmised, the program needs to be presented by a parent, and it does require a significant amount of time for the activities and for reading aloud. However, you can choose which books and activities to use if you are short on time. Also, you can easily include your other children as you read and discuss the books. The lesson plans sometimes suggest incorporating learning into everyday activities. For instance, page 37 in the instructor’s guide recommends that when you go to the grocery store, you ask your child to point out items that start with the letter A.
The Exploring God’s World Pre-K program is a wonderful way to teach pre-kindergartners by using real books rather than a heavily academic approach. Both the content and the design make this is a very family-friendly program.